Wednesday, 15 December 2010

'FRINGE' 3.9 - "Marionette"

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

It would have made more sense to go on hiatus after last week's episode, which brought the dual-Olivia storyline to an end, rather than squeeze out a regular hour that also covered the aftermath between Olivia (Anna Torv) and Peter (Joshua Jackson), but maybe that's just me. "Marionette" was the weakest episode of season 3, but because the year's been so high-quality, it was still an above-average installment with some excellent character moments.

I really enjoy Fringe's teasers, and this week's episode was a good example; a train commuter unwittingly drugged by a stranger (using a poison-tipped umbrella), collapsing when he returned home, then waking up strapped to a table with his heart removed. Fringe Division investigated, realizing they're after a surgeon who's harvesting various organs from people across the country, using a remarkable drug that can slow the process of cell degradation. But why is this thief targeting people who received a replacement organ from the same donor -- a 17-year-old ballerina called Amanda Walsh, who committed suicide after a bout of depression?

The central storyline was bread-and-butter material for Fringe, but it was certainly a fun twist on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, once it was revealed that the surgeon has been sourcing Amanda's donated organs to reassemble her body and bring her back to life. The standout moment of the surgeon "reanimating" the poor girl (attaching her to an elaborate pulley-system as a life-sized marionette he could puppeteer), was a brilliantly twisted visual mockery of life. Once Amanda had been revived properly, it was a shame the story didn't embrace the Frankenstein potential of this idea, although having Amanda be a soulless aberration and die shortly after was a more plausible outcome.

I liked how "Marionette" balanced the investigation with the psychological repercussions of Olivia returning to work so soon, knowing that Fauxlivia has been living her life for so many weeks. She now feels like an imposter in her own world (noticing signs of another version of herself having lived in her apartment), and is hurt and upset that Peter didn't realize Fauxlivia was phony -- particularly as even the crazed surgeon was able to tell Amanda wasn't the girl he wanted to resurrect simply by looking into her blank eyes. And the whole issue was exacerbated by Peter's decision to come clean and tell Olivia that his relationship with Fauxlivia had become close and sexual.

Overall, "Marionette" was a good episode that balanced the week's investigation with the serialized elements well, although I'm still uncertain if season 3 will find a way to equal its twin-Olivia storyline. The whole alternative universe structure was excellent, so hopefully it hasn't gone anyway entirely. This episode's denouement appeared to setup a fresh storyline, with The Observer (Michael Cerveris) spying on Walter (John Noble) and Peter from across a street and confirming to a colleague that "he is still alive". Was he referring to Walter, or Peter? Is one of them destined to die, or not expected to have lived to this point, perhaps because of inter-dimensional travel?

Fringe continues on 21 January, moving to a difficult Friday night timeslot in the US, where many people expect it to die. The omen of its comeback episode being entitled "Firefly" (the name of another Fox show that died in this timeslot) is hopefully just a sly in-joke, and Fringe's 5m regular viewers will follow it to Friday and make it a relative success there.

  • I can't have been alone in noticing the similarities between Dexter's plastic-wrapped kill rooms and the teaser's ad hoc operating theatre. Was that intentional?
  • There was a nice moment between Olivia and Broyles (Lance Reddick), when he was told his alt-Earth counterpart was still married and had a family. The other universe is very much the path not taken.
  • The surgeon was called Roland David Barrett. What is it with Fringe and villains with three names? He joins David Robert Jones and Thomas Jerome Newton.
WRITERS: Monica Owusu-Breen & Alison Schapker
DIRECTOR: Joe Chappelle
TRANSMISSION: 14 December 2010, Sky1/HD, 10PM